My mother is this tiny, amazingly energetic Roma woman. I grew up in a mixed family – my mother thought she was marrying up the social scale. My father was an abusive alcoholic whose first wife committed suicide leaving him and two children.
My mother was the best mother one could imagine for the three of us. She worked very long hours both at work and at home. We were very poor but we always had clean clothes and something to eat. She used her old clothes to make new ones and she was always the last priority for anything.
My life wasn’t easy. I was the “Gypsy” child for my father and for a while the “stinky Gypsy” for the children in the apartments building where we moved when I was six. My mother would make up fairy tales with darker color skin heroes. One about a brown bear that “made it” in the world of the white bears I can recall almost word by word. She even made up a song : the essence of it was if you work hard and you are nice to people around you , you will make it in any world.
If my life was hard due to discrimination, poverty and communism my mother’s life was a hell.
My father became more and more violent as I grew up. He constantly threatened to kill us. As a teenager I was left alone at home- my siblings are significantly older and had by then their own families. I was constantly a human shield between the racist and alcohol generated fury of my father and my mother.
I did this for over a decade. I had times when I felt I should run away from home or hit back my father. I never did. We put locks at our doors. One night I had to stop my father trying to axe down the door of my mother in order to kill the “filthy gypsy”.
Divorce was impossible as there will be no place to move. Policemen were beating their wives too and domestic violence was not even a concept back then. My Romanian aunt thought that my mother should stop complaining as being beaten was a sign that your husband still loves you.
It is more than 15 years since I last stopped my father for trying to beat-up my mother. Things in general have changed to the better.
For the last decade I spent often time in some of the poorest places in Europe. Violence against women was always strident. Nowadays there are still far too many women that are in my mother’s situation.
We do have better legislation. We do have better police. But still the lives of far too many women are made a hell or stopped short by violence. Each year thousands of women are killed by their spouses. Tens if not hundreds of millions are victims of violence.
And no fairy tale, no songs, no good intentions will change it. We are the ones that need to change it. Each and all of us.
Stop violence against women !
For the video please go to : http://www.coe.int/en/web/human-rights-channel/end-violence-against-women